Europe Stocks Fall

Both the Nikkei and Hang Seng also lose ground

European stock markets finished lower Wednesday following the gains of Tuesday's session. Losses in the U.S. markets seemed to weigh.

London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index shed 15 points, or 0.33%, to 4.525.10, as the blue chip index failed to recoup the day's losses as U.S. indices traded in the red following disappointing ISM non-manufacturing data. At home, the Bank of England's MPC met today and will announce its decision on interest rates tomorrow. Although most analysts anticipate the Bank will hold rates steady, there was still some jitters among the housebuilders. Profit taking hit the mining sector today, with BHP, Rio Tinto, and Anglo American all under pressure.

Germany's DAX index dipped 28.64 points, or 0.70%, to 4,071.70, as shares suffered from profit-taking, following the lower starts on Wall Street. However, traders expect losses to be limited due to the improving U.S. dollar. Today, the euro dropped back to U.S. $1.2083/87 level. Auto stocks lifted from their worst levels of the session despite mixed though mainly positive performances with U.S. vehicle sales in February.

In Paris, the CAC 40 lost 26.85 points, or 0.71%, to 3,758.51. At home, Moody's raised France Telecom's credit ratings. LVMH fell on lower-than-expected fiscal year 2003 net profits, and despite solid operating profit figures.

In Asia, markets lost ground. Shares in Japan lost ground on Wednesday, snapping a five-session winning run. The Nikkei 225 index fell 9.59 points, or 0.08%, to 11,351.92. Investors blamed Wall Street's fall overnight for the downturn, along with feelings Japanese stocks may have shot up more than warranted.

On the positive side, the Japanese yen slid, as U.S. dollar buying was prompted by expectations of strong U.S. employment data for February due out Friday following a series of robust economic indicators. Caution over U.S. dollar-buying interventions by Japanese monetary authorities also gave support to the greenback, they said.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index lost 277.26 points, or 2.02%, to 13,454.09. The market was pulled down by banking issues. Both HSB and HSBC slid further as analysts downgraded their earnings forecasts following the lenders' fiscal year 2003 results announcements.

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